History of the
Thoreau Woods Unitarian Universalist Church
formerly known as the
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntsville, Texas
The Thoreau Woods Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville, TX, was established as the Huntsville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on the Sunday after Labor Day in September 1983. Stuart and Beth Williamson, who relocated to Huntsville that year, ran an ad in the Huntsville Item inviting anyone interested in the Unitarian denomination to a brunch and discussion meeting at a restaurant where the Tejas Café is now located. Stuart prepared a talk explaining who the Unitarians are and what they believe. Two other people, Kelley and Anne Sigler, came to the meeting. Like Stuart and Beth, Kelley and Anne had been Unitarians before coming to Huntsville, so Stuart did not make his presentation. Encouraged by the warmth of the conversation at the first meeting, the four founders decided to form a fellowship.
In the spring of 1986, the fellowship held its first formal election of officers at a picnic meeting on the shore of Lake Livingston. Elected were Dr. A. J. [Jack] Westbrook, president; Kelley and Anne Sigler, vice presidents; Beth Williamson, secretary; and Hal Coleman, treasurer. Marilyn Camarca became newsletter editor and Doris McGonagle was religious education chair.
By the summer of 1986, the congregation had the minimum twenty members necessary to affiliate with the Unitarian Universalist Association. By the time we applied for affiliation, we could report twenty-two members. We were incorporated on September 3, 1986, and received our certificate of affiliation in October of that year. That same year we began meeting in the Laura Chapel of Huntsville Memorial Hospital. We continued meeting at the Laura Chapel on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, except for the three summer months when we met only on the 2nd Sunday.
Through the years many guest speakers have presented programs at our Sunday morning services. We have invited individuals from the Huntsville area to speak on various topics, some religious in nature and some of just general interest. Perhaps exploring a variety of topics is our way of increasing our own “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” one of the principles of the Unitarian Universalists.
In June of 1997, Dr. Frank Schulman became our minister, speaking regularly on the 2nd Sunday of each month until his death in January 2006.
On July 9, 2006, the membership of the Huntsville Unitarian Fellowship met in a special meeting after the service for the purpose of considering the appointment of Rev. Tom Capo for the position of consulting minister. He was chosen by a unanimous vote. He began his duties in September 2006, and he continued preaching regularly once a month through August 10, 2008, when he accepted a call to be the full-time pastor of People’s Unitarian Universalist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
After being given a plot of land at 144 East Mosley in Huntsville, the membership voted on April 8, 2009, to begin construction of a building on a pay-as-you-go basis. The first stage (dried-in) was completed by the end of July 2009.
On August 9, 2009, the membership met in a special meeting after the service to accept John Pepper’s proposal to work part time as a ministerial intern for the Huntsville UU Fellowship for two years beginning in September 2009.
On February 14, 2010, John Pepper presided as 39 people attended our first service in our new building on East Mosley Lane. Lee Stringer was recognized for spearheading the construction of the pay-as-you-go project. Our guest speaker, the Rev. Leonora Montgomery, a UU minister who has served four churches in the Houston area, brought us a meaningful sermon on “Touching Lives.” This service was dedicated to Kelley Sigler, founding member and original building committee chair, whose health prevented him from attending.
In May of 2010, now holding services every Sunday in their own building, the members voted to begin using the name Thoreau Woods Unitarian Universalist Church.
In support for and appreciation of John Pepper in his ongoing goals and ministry, the membership voted unanimously to ordain John Pepper as a Unitarian Universalist minister. The ordination ceremony was held during the Sunday morning service on June 13, 2010. John Pepper preaches twice a month at Thoreau Woods, and guest speakers or other programs are scheduled for the remaining Sundays each month.